The Irish Smoking Ban Explained

The Irish Smoking Ban Explained – Is Lighting Up Still Legal in Ireland?

They might be licensed to sell it, but you can't smoke the tobacco in there

Ireland’s smoking ban was revolutionary, and after a brief period of confusion and adjustment, it seems to work just fine. 

​​History was made in March 2004 when Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce comprehensive legislation banning smoking in workplaces.

Months beforehand, fuming publicans claimed the ban would sound the death knell for the Irish pub, and threatened legal challenge to the impending legislation being spearheaded by Health and Children Minister Micheal Martin

But on March 29, the ban went ahead, and overnight, ashtrays vanished from over 10,000 pubs and clubs and restaurants. Those caught smoking faced a hefty €3,000 fine.

Exempt locations included garda station detention areas, St Patrick’s Institution for young offenders, nursing homes, hospices and psychiatric hospitals.

Since May 2007, a blanket ban on smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces has been in effect all over Ireland. The Republic created the first smoking ban in Europe, and Northern Ireland followed suit. What does this mean to the visitor? You will be more comfortable in most places if you are a non-smoker. And you will have to step outside and enjoy more of the Irish weather than you might like if you are still puffing away.

In 2015, Ireland took this ban a step further by introducing legislation that ford cigarette manufacturers to have plain packaging and then in 2018, further legislation forced shops to have to cover cigarettes from viewing at the counter. This is why most shops nowadays have ample cupboards behind the counters.

In February 2022 a further ban on smoking in cars, private and business, while carrying children in the car was rolled out.

Places Where Smoking is Banned in Ireland

Smoking is banned in all workplaces and enclosed public spaces – from the cab of a truck (even if smoking there would not affect anyone but the smoker) to massive shopping malls like the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre. This includes restaurants and even the traditional Irish pub. Most pubs are easily identifiable these days by a throng of smokers crowding the entrance.

As a rule of thumb: Don’t even think about lighting up if you are not at home or out in the open.

The smoking ban includes all modes of transportation, from planes to taxis, with open-topped horse carts. The days you could smoke on the upper deck of double-decker buses are long gone. The Irish public is very much in favour of the smoking ban.

Exceptions to the Irish Smoking Ban

There are certain exceptions to the smoking ban, including building sites, prisons, and mental hospitals – though none of these is places that most tourists in Ireland will be visiting.

There is also the curious problem that Irish law bans specifically “tobacco smoking”, so a particular Moorish café in Dublin  can legally offer you a hookah pipe inside. This indoor smoking gets a pass because it does not contain any tobacco.

The use of electronic cigarettes, or “Vaping”, is generally not affected by the smoking ban, but whether you may or may not vape inside a specific pub or restaurant is very much down to the owner. Snuff or chewing tobacco are also not affected by the smoking ban since you are not smoking that form of tobacco.

Can I Smoke in my Irish Hotel Room or Rental Car?

Some hotels were able to provide rooms where you could smoke. This is rarer and rarer, mainly because the rooms are enclosed places of work for the housekeeping staff and thus technically under the smoking ban. Expect almost all hotel rooms to be “nonsmoking” these days. Smoking in dining areas and bars is generally prohibited.

Rental cars these days are more than likely to be sporting a “No Smoking” sign on the dashboard. Be sure to ask the rental car company about their smoking rules before you drive off if you want to know if you can have a ciggy inside the vehicle. The smoking ban should not extend to rental cars per se; again, cleaning staff may object, and you could get hit with additional fees.

Rules for Outdoor Smoking

Outdoor smoking has become popular – flirting while sharing a smoke. This works in good weather. Otherwise, all you will manage is a few deep drags before you’re soaked to the skin. The clusters of smokers around pub entrances can be annoying at times.

If you are looking for an outdoor smoking area, make sure you do not block any entrances or pathways while enjoying your cigarettes al fresco. Also, never flip a cigarette casually into the gutter, even though everybody seems to do it. If caught doing this (by a very bored or over-zealous police officer), you might have to face an instant charge of more than € 100 for littering. 

The Cost of Smoking

Going on a holiday in Ireland is a perfect moment to stop smoking because the price of cigarettes is rising and many visitors will pay at least double the price they are used to. If you plan to bring your cigarettes with you, then abide within limits set by Ireland’s customs regulations.